I used to have a thing for Fuck Theory
Fuck Theory is a very niftly little blog, that comments on philosophy, academic theories of gender and sexuality, and popular culture, with the use of photos of aphorisms written on index cards. It’s the kind of thing you’d either love or be completely indifferent to. I loved it. Ticked all my intellectual/aesthetic/anti-Theory-with-a-capital-T boxes.
I started to comment on the site. I engaged in conversation with the author of Fuck Theory. Turned out he is a philosophy lecturer in New York, a gay man who likes to bring issues of gender and sexuality to his students, via philosophical theory, and references to popular culture. He likes gay porn as well, but I don’t think he shows that to his class.
It was all going well. I flattered him on the concept of the site, and his grasp of queer theory, and Derrida. He accepted my compliments and ignored my suggestions of further reading. I looked at his gay porn links and got the horn. I pimped his blog to others.
Then things started to go wrong. First big faux pas on fuck theory’s part: he slagged off Mark Simpson, ‘daddy of the metrosexual’, ‘spawner of sporno’, a man who I respect immensely on all sorts of levels. He based his critique on the fact he’d read one article in the 1990s, and seemed a little bit jealous of the credit Simpson has received for his genuinely original and influential ideas about gay culture and masculinity. Oh well. I bet Mark is used to bitter queens, being bitter.
Also, I started to notice a certain disdain by Mr Fuck Theory for his students. He took the piss out of an art student and called him an ‘art fag’, saying he didn’t know what he was talking about, and should not pretend to be Professor Fuck Theory’s intellectual equal. I have met too many arrogant lecturers to be impressed by that. What a boring thing to use your blog to do.
The final straw came when he posted a piece about Luce Iragaray , and her theories of sexual difference. I responded by discussing Judith Butler , and my belief that gender is something we do, not something we are. I also suggested he was misrepresenting Iragay’s stance on ‘essentialism’. Fuck Theory was so rattled he produced two more posts, challenging ‘Butlerists’ (me?) and the fact they obviously knew little of philosophy, and should really listen to the experts. I responded, enjoying engaging in such a debate about a subject that is dear to my heart, that I studied as part of my PhD. I thought hey, me and Fuck Theory are really starting to connect here.
Suddenly he closed down all the comments on the original post where I’d challenged him. You can’t see them. I think he thought he’d been pwned, and didn’t want to lose face.
I would not report on this, except it is happening to me on a daily basis at the moment. If I challenge someone , especially in the context of a political or academic-related blog, I get blocked, expected to be quiet. Told to ‘go away’.
I am getting a bit worried about what this approach says about our understanding of the meaning of ‘debate’ currently, and our commitment to openness and ‘freedom’ on the internet at the very least. I have a nasty feeling about this, that is nothing to do with me, or Fuck Theory, or Cruella, or anyone else that has told me to shut up recently.
It’s a sense that dissent and debate are just not cool. In a world where the channels for discussion have never been more numerous or more accessible, those that need to retain their positions of power within discourse are doing everything they can to make damn sure that they do. By whatever means necessary.
It reminds me of this.